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A Field Guide to the Valley's Latin Dance Clubs

DJ Melo spins during a night at Karamba.
DJ Melo spins during a night at Karamba.
New Times Archive

Latin music is one of the musical genres that define our community.

Throughout the Valley, heaps of artists performing everything from banda and salsa to cumbia and norteña can be found at nightclubs all across the Valley. Some establishments emphasize high-end luxury, while others offer a more down-home vibe. It’s these clubs that drive the value of Latin music in our fair city, so try one of these tried-and-true hot spots.

Club Dwntwn

702 North Central Avenue

If you're looking for a Latin dance music leader in the Valley, it's easy to make a strong argument for Club Dwntwn. Opened in 2002, the club features three sizable rooms, which is a blessing on a packed Saturday night. Promoters book everything from banda and norteña to salsa and Spanish rock, and there are numerous themed and seasonal events. Some might find a fairly stringent dress code a little restrictive, but it’s just another step to promote a tailored experience. It provides that ample mix of glamour, theatricality, and down-home vibes.

Karamba Nightclub

1724 East McDowell Road

Opening in September 2004, Karamba Nightclub is the only real gay Latin dance club in the Valley. This establishment uplifts the community with every outing, having assembled a loyal following of attendees, performers, and DJs.

But the club’s much more than any descriptors. From weekly events like cumbia on Wednesday and Thursday's "Cantina Nights" to karaoke and drag shows, Karamba is as much about accessibility and openness as it is about its proud representation. So, just what unites these multifaceted "revelers" (according to Karamba)? That deeply human desire to "cut loose and party into the wee hours."

Antro Nightclub

4346 West Glendale Avenue, Glendale

In many ways, Antro Nightclub is the baby of the Latin dance scene, having opened its doors in February 2016. And to some extent, the west Valley club is figuring itself out, which means a far greater emphasis on hip-hop than some other clubs. It's an addition to the Latin scene that might upset some purists, but that doesn’t mean that Antro doesn’t skimp on bachata, merengue, cumbia, or salsa. There’s something offered most nights of the week, and they've nailed the prerequisites: giant dance floor, regular themed events (including the always popular '80s night), and bottle service. Does youth make for a better club experience, or is there something essential about a legacy? Feel free to contemplate that as you dance the night away.

La Flor de Calabaza

705 North First Street

La Flor de Calabaza isn't like any other of the clubs on this list. First and foremost, it's a bar and restaurant serving up genuinely authentic cross-regional Mexican cuisine (and we mean genuine, like sopecitos de mole and coctel de elote). And since lunch/dinner is never complete without a drink, you can always belly up to the bar for everything from a Mexican Mai Tai to the magic of an Orgasmo.

But La Flor is also a great venue for diverse Mexican music. Some clubs have a greater emphasis on pop and hip-hop, but the acts here tend to be more local/regional favorites (fret not, La Flor still has karaoke and an '80s night). So, what do you get when you put all of these components together? A club that's about the ambiance as much as it is comfort. It's a haven for an intimate meal or a good time.

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Coco Loco Lounge

510 West Camelback Road, Glendale

On the surface, it’s easy to have misgivings about Coco Loco Lounge. It's another of the slightly newer clubs, so it's geared toward a more mainstream audience. But don't let that dime-a-dozen flash fool you: Coco Loco is very much a great Latin club. Whether it's live bands, DJs playing Latin covers, or Banda Fridays, the Latin influences remain central to the club’s overall vibe and aesthetic. They also tend to book local and regional acts, which helps illustrate the sheer depth of talent brimming in the Southwest. Coco Loco is a much-needed attraction for folks on the west side.

El Capri

2135 East Van Buren Street

El Capri is one the more centrally located clubs on this list, and if that means you have to travel far to get there, you’re still in the thick of downtown’s food and booze amenities. It also works with KSUN/La Mejor to snag great acts (with a keen emphasis on banda music). If there are any downsides, El Capri tends to book live bands more sparingly. But don’t let that sway your decision. El Capri is all about presenting an approachable form of Latin dance.

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